Brian is dead…

For this final blog I wanted to touch on some sociocultural aspects of death as they relate to the death of Brian Griffin from the hit TV show, Family Guy.  



This tragic event took place at the beginning of Sunday’s brand new episode of “Family Guy”, and believe me this episode was one for the books. As an avid viewer of “Family Guy”, the show established a firm basis with the Griffin family and their dog Brian. By killing-off one of the most comical characters from the show, “Family Guy”, could have not only altered their viewer ratings, but potentially the lives of the viewers’. According to articles from CNN and the Washington Post, after the airing of Sunday’s episode a petition arose to bring back the deceased character. A petition signed by approximately 35,000 people was created in an endeavor to have the show return the character, but that would be the first time such a resurrection has occurred. Even after strong lobbying attempts, it seems as if this attempt to shake things up within the Griffin family and their viewers will stick.  

            Now you’re probably wondering what this episode has to do with sociocultural aspects of dying and how all of this ties in with the real world we live in today. I was watching the episode with some friends and the visual reactions I observed them having were similar to the reaction of losing an actual dog. I used the Kubler-Ross’s coping model to explain the actions that I observed my friends having and even though their reactions were fast, they were noticeable and I myself tried to cope with the situation; completely unaware. What baffled me more than the death of one of my favorite TV show characters was the type of responses I viewed from my friends and the people I have read about.


“The writers of family guy didn’t just kill off one of their creations, they killed off the dog who has lived in our homes for the last 15 years,” reads the online petition. “They killed the dog we all have come to love. They killed America’s dog!”


This excerpt from a CNN article of the event really helped capture my attention on how people react to a “big” sociocultural variation! When “Family Guy” became a prominent figure in social media I had a feeling that little to anything would be changed on the show, but something I failed to realize about socialization is how dynamic it can be. It was about that time that “Family Guy” needed a change. The show advertised the arrival of a new dog, Vinny; how the new pup stands in comparison to Brian only viewers can decide, but what all of this seems like to me is the refusal of the shows viewers to accept change, specifically, by death. Petitioners and my friends alike, all were shocked, sadden, and frustrated over Brians death, but none of them chose to accept the death as something that could be, only something that once was.









In the article “Taking Responsibility for Death” by Susan Jacoby, she argues that there is a clear separation between the value American society places on personal choices during life versus choices made at end-of-life. It would seem that, as a society, we do not reinforce the importance of personal choices for when our untimely end reaches us, as much as we do to push the choice to be drug-free in society today. Susan Jacoby proceeds in her article to emphasize the importance and cost effectiveness of having an advance directive in order to safeguard what
“will” happen to you once you are no longer to make conscious decisions, or are at end-of-life moment.



The above video from the California Healthcare Foundation reflects on patients’ choices when it comes to end of life and how a physician’s order for life sustaining treatment (POLST) can provide great relief for patients at their end of life moment. The POLST is a bit more specific that the living will, in my opinion, because if this form is filled with the physician a lot of major concerns and questions can be answered. Ultimately, the goal is to get more people to have an advanced directive of some sort and remove the fear that many people face today about death and how it works.

Susan Jacoby mentioned her mother being in hospice care and how her directives were upheld as she received no artificial nutrition or a respirator. This described event showcases the simplicity of advanced directives and the ability to make your own choices for you end of life experience. Mrs. Jacoby also went into how the cost between hospice care and hospital care varies greatly and how such figures could be reduced. As humans we have a right to live and responsibilities as to how we live; on the other hand, we should have the right to die and with death there comes responsibilities as to how. I broke down the responsibilities that I believe people should have when it comes to end of life preferences into two categories: self-preference and financial preference. It would be the responsibility of the patient to think about what they would like to have done to them if they were in that life or death moment. Living wills, whether it is notarized or it was just written in  a journal, are better than nothing when it comes to deciding if you want to be kept living on artificial treatment  or having no treatment at all. The patient should be responsible to have a healthcare proxy as well in order to speak on your behalf and for your directives if on your living will.  Also, the financial aspect of end-of-life can be catastrophic with left over medical bills from treatments that may have been unnecessary and these costs would be left to the family to pay. Like what Susan Jacoby mentioned, these costs can be lowered if not avoided if more people become aware of the treatments they do/do not or want/need through living wills, POLST, proxies, etc.  With these measures established, patients’ and patients’ families should question any decision made by the healthcare provider. Anyone would like to know what is going to happen to them and even if you or the family doesn’t know enough about a subject, it shouldn’t prevent someone from trying to find out.

It would be the sole responsibility of the patients’ family to push the importance of advance directives with the patient and not fear that talk of “what happens if anything were to happen to you”. It’s also the family’s responsibility to provide optimal support and enforce the choices made by the patient on how they would like to be treated. The patient should speak up if the way that they are being treated doesn’t suit their needs and if they have a living will and no longer want to follow through with what’s on it, they can change it. End-of-life planning is one of the few things that is entirely up to you and how you approach it. It would be best to get information on how advance directives work and by increasing your knowledge of the responsibilities at end-of-life, one can feel more confident on the directives they choose.

Will the pain ever go away???

If you have ever been in some kind of accident or have been hurt in some sort of way, a broken bone or even a headache, you know how painful those can be. For most of us we would have anything or do anything to make the pain stop and go back to normal, right? Now, let us take someone who has cancer and has been placed on a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals. Not many of us have felt what being in such a condition must feel like, but one could only imagine. Well for that cancer patient, similar to someone having a severe migraine, they are looking for something to stop the pain that they are feeling and “cure” whatever is wrong with them. Thanks to modern medicine we are able to temporarily or sometimes permanently “fix” specific conditions or illnesses that pop up in society, but not all of them. But what if medicine couldn’t save your life? Or make you feel better? What should it do?

So many different ideas came to mind, but ill limit myself to one. First off, if medicine couldn’t save your life then I couldn’t really find a real purpose for it in our world today. In our world today almost anything can happen to anyone at any moment. When I read the short story, “Letting Go.” by Atul Gawande, it really encompassed the idea that something bad can turn into something worse in an instant. Sara, the main character of this short story, was 39-weeks pregnant when she suffered from a collapsed lung. Results from testing showed that Sara had lung cancer and to make things worse, it had already began spreading. Her labor was induced and she gave birth to her baby girl, Vivian. Soon after doctors focused on how to “beat” Sara’s cancer and placed her on a variety of new drugs.  Started with Tarceva, which caused extreme tiredness and rash, was supposed to fight the mutations in Sara but ended up not being the right medicine; strike 1. From that treatment Sara was placed on carboplatin and paclitaxel, but due to the paclitaxel causing a serious allergic reaction, it was switched with gemcitabine,  A summer goes by and still her treatment ceases to show any progress and Sara is placed on…pemetrexed, another drug.

All of this “treatment” really made this upbeat, optimistic mother into a more stressed and fragile, cancer suffering mother. After the failure of the first prescription, she must have wanted anything to make her feel the way she was before this occurence and it seemed as if they were just testing medicines with minute certainty that those therapeutics would better Sara’s condition. If medicine was not going to fix a condition then at least it could have caused a greater pain relief so Sarah could spend more time with her new family and potentially had hospice care if she knew this cancer was fatal. Waning to be there with her family and that feeling must have been what kept Sara going a majority of the time while on those medications. If medicine were to have an alternate purpose from just saving your life, it would have to be a way to let you enjoy your last moments by helping you accomplish things you may haven’t been able to before; hospice treatment for example.  

Let’s talk about dying

So, I just randomly stumbled across this TED talk video during my casual stroll across the interweb and it really caught my attention. Mr. Peter Saul touches on how a majority of people “deny” death and are unprepared for an end-of-life event. He also goes into some research he had done with end of life patients in which the patients were asked what they wanted before death. A lot of what he was lecturing arose interesting questions that a majority of us don’t ask ourselves or others like, “Who would speak my wishes if I was incapacitated” or “Do you have a plan for your own or a family members death”; all very prominent questions that a majority of people disregard.

An interesting topic that I took from the lecture was the advertisement of life and life promoting quotes and how they can pertain to death. I believe that by promoting our knowledge of life and death synonymously in our society today, it could eventually lead those who fear, deny, or are unaware of death towards the acceptance of our dying process.

Just a little brain food for all my fellow bloggers! I hope you enjoyed it and don’t be scared to reply, new perspectives and insights are always welcome!

THIS.. IS.. DYING!!!!!! (300 STYLE)

One of my favorite movies has to be the movie “300”, it’s full of action, more action, and don’t forget the action. A majority of us may remember the plot, but here is a quick refresher if you forgot or just never knew in the first place. We start off with a King Leonidas, ruler of Sparta kicking a messenger into a massive bottomless pit. The reason, he told the Spartan king to resign his thrown by the order of the power hungry Xerxes, King of the Persians. Leonidas decides to formulate a plan in which 300 well trained Spartans would go the Thermopylae territory to bottle-neck the invading Persian army and “hopefully” defeat them. High moral and determination drives the Spartans to engage in a multiplicity of savage, brutal onslaughts. Eventually, due to “Persian Persuasion”, traitors are found both within the Spartan council back home and with some of the Spartan allies; basically, they told Xerxes about a secret path to get the upper hand on the Spartans. From this point on the Spartans begin to face a steep decline in their success and ultimately the 300 Spartans are left no more. But during one of the last action scenes, where Kind Leonidas and his dying men are shrouded in arrows, the language used by the actors and narrator really sums up some important points on how we today can/do look at death; I’ll explain further.


Perspectives on death and dying can change with experience and the knowledge of what it is. We can watch TV shows like “1000 Ways to Die” and laugh about these ironically tragic deaths or cry like a baby while watching the movie “The Notebook”, but is that really how death and dying is? To me, death and dying can be an array of things and depending on what “kind” of experiences with death you have it could be possible to influence how you view it. The movie “300” accentuates courage and longevity, yet King Leonidas wishes that one of his traitors “lives forever”, as Leonidas is kneeling to the Persian king prior to his death. The Persian King is considered a God throughout the movie, but after Leonidas hurls a spear at him cutting his face, Xerxes facial reactions clearly show emotions of a mortal man; not of a God since Gods don’t bleed according to Xerxes.

Each of these situations reinforces the idea that no one is immortal and that life should be cherished even in the presence of death. One of Leonidas’s men, with two arrows in his chest, creeps to his side and says, “It’s an honor to die at your side”, Leonidas responds, “It’s an honor to have lived by yours”; once again embracing life and not accepting death, until they are consumed by arrows. This movie touches on the optimistic and pessimistic views that many people have about death today. The fear of death has spread to many people in our society today, but how is it so simple for those 300 Spartans to accept dying as if it was living? I would believe that a majority of our population denies death and the other majority does not, but through experience and acceptance of life and death we can be as strong as King Leonidas and his Spartans.

Check the clip out from the movie!